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HomeBaseballJosé Ramírez Was Completely Totally different and Precisely the Identical in 2023

José Ramírez Was Completely Totally different and Precisely the Identical in 2023


Jose Ramirez
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports activities

José Ramírez is the definition of a set-it-and-forget-it participant, and I imply that a minimum of a bit of bit actually. Neither we nor our mates over at Baseball Prospectus revealed a single article that centered on him throughout a 2023 season when, for the fourth time in a row, he completed within the prime 10 within the AL MVP voting. He turned out to have a really attention-grabbing season, and never simply because he was, as all the time, wonderful.

In June of 2022, Ramírez injured the ulnar collateral ligament in his proper thumb. To the shock of the Cleveland teaching workers, he determined to play by way of vital ache and postpone surgical procedure till the offseason. Regardless of seeing his energy drop off dramatically, he ended the season with a 141 wRC+ and 6.4 WAR. He lastly had the surgical procedure in November and got here into the 2023 season wholesome, however he received off to a sluggish begin and completed with a 123 wRC+. It was his worst exhibiting since 2019, when a damaged hamate bone ended his season prematurely. (As an apart, for those who’re determined for for reassurance that Mike Trout will bounce again from his hamate harm, look no additional than Ramírez, who instantly returned to superstardom in 2020.)

The graph under spans three years so you may see Ramírez in his wholesome 2021 season, then how his energy trailed off after the harm in ‘22, then the form of his 2023 season.

At first blush, that is a straightforward story to inform. Hand surgical procedure tends to rob hitters of energy, and it took some time for all these tiny muscle groups in Ramírez’s hand to get again to regular. That large spike on the correct aspect of the graph began rising on June 7, when he kicked off a nine-game hitting streak by going 2-for-4 with an RBI double in a win over the Crimson Sox. Listed here are his 2023 stats, utilizing that date as a dividing line:

José Ramírez Flips the Swap

Date PA HR ISO EV HH% wRC+
Earlier than June 7 252 6 .170 89 38 101
Beginning June 7 439 18 .206 90.6 41.9 136

Ramírez began hitting the ball a lot tougher. He hit 3 times as many dwelling runs in properly below half as many plate appearances. In truth, he ended the season with a 90-mph common exit velocity, the very best of his profession. These tiny little muscle groups actually matter. However whereas it’s a real story, it’s not the entire story. Listed here are some extra stats utilizing that very same dividing line:

José Ramírez Will get Much less Unfortunate

Date BABIP xwOBACon xwOBACon wOBA xwOBA BB% Ok%
Earlier than June 7 .261 .317 .353 .315 .345 9.9 8.7
Beginning June 7 .299 .384 .390 .364 .369 10.9 11.6

For the primary 60 video games of the season, Ramírez wasn’t hitting the ball as onerous however was additionally considerably unfortunate (although a few of it was because of his batted ball combine, which we’ll get to later). On the similar time, he was placing the ball in play extra usually. His stroll charge was a bit decrease, and his strikeout charge was greater than a bit decrease. To place these numbers in context, since 2016, Ramírez has run a ten.5% stroll charge and a 12% strikeout charge. These first 60 video games had been the outlier.

What was he doing in a different way? It’s not that he was chasing extra or making quite a bit much less contact. It’s that he was extra aggressive on pitches within the zone.

José Ramírez Assaults Strikes

Date Whiff% Z-Swing% Chase%
Earlier than June 7 16.4 71.2 28.3
Beginning June 7 15.1 65 28.1

As soon as once more, the primary row is the outlier, and the second row is correct consistent with Ramírez’s profession numbers. He ended the season with a swing charge of 70.3% on pitches within the zone. That’s the very best charge of his profession, all due to these first 60 video games.

Swinging at extra pitches within the zone is normally factor, however look what occurs if we use Baseball Savant’s assault zones and break the strikes down into pitches over the guts of the plate and pitches within the shadow zone. The desk under is simply his swing charge:

Particularly Borderline Strikes

Date Coronary heart Shadow
Earlier than June 7 73.4 69.1
Beginning June 7 73.7 54.6

Now we’re getting someplace. Once more, the desk above solely pertains to pitches within the strike zone; it doesn’t embody pitches that had been within the shadow zone however outdoors the zone. At first of the season, regardless of not chasing extra, Ramírez didn’t actually distinguish between pitches over the guts of the plate and pitches on the sides of the strike zone. After June 7, his swing charge on strikes within the shadow zone dropped again all the way down to and even under his profession charge of 57.6%.

For example the significance of that change, I’m going to point out you an unholy amalgam of two graphs from Pitcher Record. I took Ramírez’s strike zone judgment graph, and on prime of it, I crudely pasted his choice worth graph. The white line exhibits how usually Ramírez made the correct name for those who have a look at issues in black and white: swing at pitches more likely to be known as strikes, and lay off pitches more likely to be known as balls. The purple line exhibits extra nuance, modeling the run worth of a swing or tackle any given pitch, then crediting or debiting the hitter based mostly on every choice.

See the large hole between the white and purple strains firstly of the chart? Earlier than his manufacturing took off, Ramírez was swinging at strikes and shedding balls, however he wasn’t essentially swinging at hittable pitches, particularly fastballs.

I discussed earlier that when Ramírez underperformed his wOBA throughout that early stretch, he may need been experiencing greater than dangerous luck. That’s as a result of his batted ball distribution modified drastically:

José Ramírez Balls in Play

Date GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB
Earlier than June 7 0.64 20.0% 31.2% 48.8% 17.0% 6.0%
Beginning June 7 0.94 23.9% 36.9% 39.2% 13.5% 13.5%
Profession 0.86 20.4% 36.8% 42.8% 12.4% 12.2%

Ramírez hit tons of fly balls, and he additionally hit extra balls to heart subject, the place it takes extra energy to do injury. That’s not a recipe for achievement for those who’re doing so at a time if you’re hitting the ball extra weakly. He additionally elevated his popup charge dramatically. Hanging out much less doesn’t assist in any respect for those who’re simply changing these strikeouts with a unique form of computerized out.

That mentioned, there actually was some dangerous luck occurring right here. This desk is his efficiency solely on strikes within the shadow zone:

José Ramírez Shadow Zone Strikes

Date wOBA xwOBA EV HH%
Earlier than June 7 .260 .353 89 42.3
Beginning June 7 .391 .364 90.8 42.1

Ramírez underperformed his xwOBA by almost 100 factors. It’s onerous to chalk all of that as much as batted ball distribution. On pitches over the guts of the plate, he was nonetheless hitting the ball a lot softer, however his precise and anticipated efficiency was roughly the identical:

José Ramírez Coronary heart Strikes

Date wOBA xwOBA EV HH%
Earlier than June 7 .408 .403 91.7 43.3
Beginning June 7 .421 .406 93.7 52

There’s much more nuance at play than we’ve time to dig into. For instance, there’s the truth that Ramírez is a switch-hitter. Listed here are two extra swing choice charts, with Ramírez as a lefty on the left and as a righty on the correct:

All through the season, these two strains appear to run counter to one another, with Ramírez making good choices from one aspect and dangerous choices from the opposite aspect. I don’t know the place to start untangling that one.

I’m afraid that’s the place I’ll have to depart you. There’s a chicken-and-egg dialog available right here. It’s potential that Ramírez adjusted his plate self-discipline as a result of hits weren’t falling in, due to doubts about his hand, as a result of he wasn’t hitting the ball as onerous, or due to another issue we are able to’t guess at. It’s additionally potential that that is simply the form of factor that occurs, and the harm is a handy place to assign the blame. There’s no actual solution to know, and as quickly as Ramírez hit that sizzling stretch in early June, he went again to his customary, extra considered method.

In the long run, except you’re digging into the underlying metrics, you’ll see solely one other classic José Ramírez season. By DRC+, which seems to be at underlying metrics and never simply outcomes, he was at 133, the third-best season of his complete profession. Because it stands, there’s no cause that we shouldn’t count on him to place up one other ho-hum, five-win season in 2024. Nonetheless, we should always in all probability pay a bit of extra consideration to it, simply in case.

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